ZIFA referees development programme targets the 2026 World Cup

BY Sibongumusa Dhlodhlo

The Zimbabwe Football Association is stepping up efforts to develop local referees and meet international standards, with the target being to have representation at the 2026 FIFA World Cup in the United States of America.

Zimbabwe has over the years failed to have match officials gracing major international tournaments such as the Africa Cup of Nations and the World Cup, with the major criticism being the low standards of local refereeing.

The recent announcement of the 2022 Qatar FIFA World cup panel also revealed that no Zimbabwean referee will be taking part at the global football showpiece.

While noting that the2022 Qatar world cup panel was selected at the end of the 2018 edition in Russia, ZIFA Referees Committee Chairman, Brigthon Malandule expressed disappointment at the development.

He highlighted that his association is stepping up efforts to improve the quality of local officiating through engaging in several online courses during this Covid-19 induced lockdown.

“Development of referees is a process. Yes it is very disappointing especially from the Referees Committee point of view that we don’t have referees that are representing us in major tournaments. These online courses are very key because we are also lobbying to have our match officials listed as CAF A match officials. So through these online courses, the FIFA Instructors are going to identify talented match officials from Zimbabwe. From CAF A, this is where we will have officials selected for major tournaments like the World Cup and AFCON.”

Malandule is however, confident that Zimbabwe will have referees at the 2026 World Cup.

“The future is not all that gloom for our match officials. We just need to be patient. Like I promised that I’m sure come 2026 we will have groomed a referee who will represent us at the world cup in America.”

Some of the online FIFA courses conducted include the elite referees in August, the young talent and the match assessors where 30 officials took part while an instructors’ course is also lined up for the beginning of December.

From the year 2016 to date, there have been some changes to the laws of the game, hence the need for match officials to keep up to date.